Riveters The pilots Mule Rearing pilots in dress uniforms African American Soldiers 1 doughboys with mules African American Officers gas masks

The WWrite Blog

August 8th: The Short Story Behind a Photo by Benjamin Sonnenberg

User Rating: 0 / 5

Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

August 8th: The Short Story Behind a Photo
by Benjamin Sonnenberg

 

Benjamin Sonnenberg, a student at University of Maryland and intern at the WWI Centennial Commission, is giving new voice to WWI by creating a fiction collection based on events, stories, and archival documents. Here, is a piece of short fiction inspired by a photo of German Generals Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff in 1917:

 02-005.jpgHindLudne 

General von der Marwitz was fiddling with his Iron Cross. He played with the corners of the map as he breathed out his report: “19 British divisions. 12 French. A single American. Two-thousand fighters.” Paul von Hindenburg looked at his deputy. General Erich Ludendorff was shaking his head, mumbling something about the Social Democrats.

“Von Hutier’s 18th Army has fallen back to Hargicourt,” Marwitz continued, tracing the tortuous path with a pale white finger. “Von Larisch’s 54th Corps has been shattered and forced back to Proyart. Von Hofacker’s Corps has withdrawn to Ville sur Ancre.”

 “Yes, but how much land lost?” Ludendorff thundered, his left hand quavering behind his back.

“I’m not sure, Herr General. The attack has only just ceased, and prisoners are —”

“Prisoners?” One eye twitched. Then the other. “How many men?”

“Again, it’s rather unclear because—”

A small glass fell to the floor, shattering. Now Ludendorff’s right hand began to shake. “Christ, is there anything you can tell me?”

Von der Marwitz shuffled. A once-proud cavalryman, formerly immaculate in hussar full dress and Totenkopf, now choked in mud and exhaustion.

“It’s very bad. Perhaps eight miles lost.”

The color flew from Ludendorff’s face. His entire body shook and Hindenburg saw his deputy and friend foam at the mouth. Ludendorff reached out for the table but toppled over on his side.

“Koessler!” Hindenburg called out for his aide.  “Water!”

****

The rulers of Germany were standing at a train station. The day had passed and now evening seemed to roll on endlessly. Hindenburg spoke and Ludendorff, his face still not of color, listened and nodded. The former’s calmness belied the scene at the front. It was, indeed, worse than Marwitz had let on. Five German divisions ceased to exist, many prisoners had been taken, invaluable equipment was lost to an enemy that seemed to grow larger by the day. Hindenburg decided not to tell Ludendorff of this for now.  

They stood waiting for the train that would take them to their headquarters in Bad Kreuznach. They wore their pickelhaube, which bemused Hindenburg. The worst defeat of the whole war, but the sartorial traditions must be adhered to when meeting the Kaiser.

“Stuff-shirted fool!” Ludendorff muttered. “He and all the others back home.”

“Yes,” Hindenburg said.

“How will they explain this to the German people?”

“Yes.”

Ludendorff turned to face his commander. Hindenburg looked at his deputy and, for just a moment, saw the man with whom he had thrashed the Russians.

“Do you remember when I thought you’d been crushed at Tannenberg?” Hindenburg said.

Lundendorff smiled weakly. “Your orders were mad. Purely mad. Though they did work. I only remember slicing through the Russian center.”

“Brilliant,” he said and laughed. “We saved East Prussia from barbarians. You and I, with a handful of men, held off the Tsar.”

Ludendorff smiled, and then shook his head. “Retreat! The German Army in full retreat! What a thought after so many days of brilliant victories.”

Ludendorff stood akimbo, biting his lip and staring into the graying sky. He continued. “Never in the history of a German army have so many men capitulated in the field. The black day of the Germany Army, brought on by a stab in the back from the saboteurs at home.”

“You haven’t been sleeping, Erich.”

Ludendorff ran the back of his hand against his forehead. “Not in days.”

“Perhaps you’ll sleep on the train.”

“Perhaps you and I will review the reports and save what is left of the situation.”

“It can still be saved,” Hindenburg said. “You worry yourself too greatly.”

“Saved,” he said to himself, tasting the word.

“Perhaps the war cannot be won, Erich. But our men are the most experienced in the world. They will stem the enemy’s advance, as before.”

“Fantasy.” Ludendorff shook his head and went toward the train.

“Do you remember what happened to Frederick the Great? At the Battle of Kunersdorf? It will happen again.”

Erich Ludendorff began to twist his Iron Cross again. “Another Miracle of the House of Brandenburg? Field Marshals do not rely on fantasies!”

General Ludendorff shut the door behind him.  Hindenburg removed his pickelhaube and whistled through his teeth. He thought of his name, and then of his lineage. He thought of his ancestor, Colonel Otto, who had lost a leg during the Seven Years’ War and received a landed estate. A descendent of Martin Luther, a Prussian to the very core. He looked at the sky and winced.

Black day.

For a moment, he felt the fear of defeat rush through him. Ignominy. The end of ancient prestige. Then it passed and he regained his stature. Perhaps it could be salvaged after all.

Paul von Hindenburg entered the train carriage.

Author's bio

BSonbiophotoBenjamin Sonnenberg is a rising senior and History major at the University of Maryland College Park. He has been professionally published with numerous magazines and presses, including Pseudopod,  Janus, and Zaum Press. He is currently an Administration/State Outreach intern with the Centennial Commission, and is excited to use his fiction to further stimulate interest in American involvement in WWI. More specifically, he is inspired by personal stories of sacrifice and bravery, and seeks to use his fiction to bring attention to forgotten individuals and the roles they played to help shape the modern world.

 

Journalist Tweets WWI to French Youth. Plus! Her Exclusive Twitter Feed from Bastille Day in Paris

User Rating: 5 / 5

Star ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar Active

Journalist Tweets WWI to French Youth. Plus! Her Exclusive Twitter
Feed from Bastille Day in Paris

STfigurinesStéphanie Trouillard's Facebook Cover Photo, WWI figurines in her hands

Stéphanie Trouillard, 33 years old, is a T.V./web journalist and WWI Centenary Correspondent for French main media source, France24. With over 12,000 people following her blog and Twitter accounts about WWI, she explains her personal and professional passions driving her innovative historical writing project. 

A Personal and Professional Project

*I have been working a journalist for the France 24 website, a main French media source, for over four years. Most of my work covers international news,PoiluA French WWI "Poilu" but since the beginning of the centennial of the First World War in November 2013, I have also been dealing with this war. In three years, I have written more than a hundred articles on the Great War. This has allowed me to broach many subjects—military, but also cultural, sports, and even scientific subjects. Every day, I compose a press review on my Twitter account and give the news about the centenary. In parallel to my professional activities, I research the Poilus of my family. [Poilu is the French term for WWI soldiers. It means “hairy,” which is how the French press described the haggard, and, yes, hairy soldiers]. I tell their stories in articles and I go to the field to try to trace their different paths. Three of my great-uncles lost their lives during the conflict and two of my great-grandfathers were involved. They were all in different armies and regiments: the infantry, the artillery, and the navy. The family connection has allowed me to have a more intimate approach to this great story.

Read more: Journalist Tweets WWI to French Youth. Plus! Her Exclusive Twitter Feed from Bastille Day in Paris

Special Bastille Day Edition! WWrite Weekend Update for July 16th

User Rating: 5 / 5

Star ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar Active

Special Bastille Day Edition! WWrite Weekend Update for July 16th

PatrouilleBastilleDAyAlpha Jets from the French Air Force's Patrouille de France fly over Paris on Bastille Day

Latest Post: The latest post, Ernst Jünger: The Modern War Storycomes from critically-acclaimed veteran writer Elliot Ackerman. In an interesting flipStormofSteel2 for convention, this WWrite post steps out of the current narrative in war literature to explore our culture's allure not to peace, but to violence. Rather than glorifying war, recent memoirs and books have concentrated on its debilitating and destructive effect on the returning soldier. In this post, Ackerman gives us his take on Ernst Jünger's seminal war memoir, Storm of Steel,, and the ways in which it assigns a redeeming quality to combat violence. 

Read more: Special Bastille Day Edition! WWrite Weekend Update for July 16th

Ernst Junger: The Modern War Story by Elliot Ackerman

User Rating: 5 / 5

Star ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar Active

Ernst Jünger: The Modern War Story

By Elliot Ackerman

-- “The character of battle … is slaughter.” – Carl von Clausewitz

StormofSteel2

Cover, Storm of Steel, published by Penguin, 2016

Much of the modern literature of war, which was birthed in the trenches of the First World War, has been arrayed into the following moral arc: a naïve, idealistic youth goes to war; he witnesses the horrors and waste; he returns home haunted, or even destroyed by what he’s seen; hence war is evil. Obviously there are many variations on this theme—sardonic novels like Catch-22, or narratives that only obliquely reference war such as The Sun Also Rises—but much of literature adheres to this basic framework and its moralism. And why shouldn’t it? What could be redeeming about the slaughter Clausewitz references? Yet it took the unprecedented bloodletting of the trenches, with their poison gas and futile advances into machinegun fire, to codify this conclusion in art. But is there room for another narrative in literature?

Read more: Ernst Junger: The Modern War Story by Elliot Ackerman

WWrite Weekend Update for June 25th: This Week's Writerly News from the U.S. WWI Centennial Site

User Rating: 5 / 5

Star ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar Active

Brian Castner Interviews Matti Friedman about Pumpkinflowers and Gives Insight on "The Forever War."


TheLongWalkCastner
This Week's Post: 
This week's post, "Echoes of Sassoon: A Conversation with Matti Friedman," comes from BrianPumpkin Flowers Castner, co-editor of The Road Ahead and author of All the Ways We Kill and Die and The Long Walk. He also wrote the foreword for See Me for Who I Am, authored by WWrite blogger, David Chrisinger

Read more: WWrite Weekend Update for June 25th: This Week's Writerly News from the U.S. WWI Centennial Site

Echoes of Sassoon: A Conversation with Matti Friedman by Brian Castner

User Rating: 0 / 5

Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

Echoes of Sassoon: A Conversation with Matti Friedman

by Brian Castner

Pumpkin Flowers

When Matti Friedman was seventeen years old, he moved from a typical middle-class neighborhood in Toronto to a kibbutz in Israel, to work as a farmer. A few years later, he was drafted into the Israel Defense Forces, and fought in Southern Lebanon in 1998 and 1999, in a conflict that still has no official name. After his military service ended, he settled in Jerusalem and became a journalist with the Associated Press. It took him fifteen years to write about his war. His memoir of that time, Pumpkinflowers, was published last year, and was chosen as a New York Times Notable Book.

Read more: Echoes of Sassoon: A Conversation with Matti Friedman by Brian Castner

Subcategories

Subscribe to WWrite & More
To sign up for updates to the WWrite blog and WWI topics, or to access your subscriber preferences, please enter your email address below.